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The name philodendron is Greek and originates from phileo, which means love, and dendron, meaning tree. This subtropical plant is native to Central and South America’s tropical rain forests and is the least common among all philodendrons. It is stable and hardy, making it an excellent choice for experts and beginners alike.
The best soil for the philodendron atom is nutrient-rich, well-aerated, and well-draining but moist. The soil should also be alkaline with a pH level above 7. It should also have sufficient magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen.
This article will detail the best soil for the philodendron atom, qualities of the ideal potting mix, and selection of ingredients. I will also describe how to mix the soil for the philodendron atom and the indicators of an incorrect soil mix.
Different plants require varying conditions to grow. For the philodendron atom to flourish, it needs the following soil conditions:
Nutrients and beneficial bacteria in the soil are critical for the philodendron atom to thrive. Therefore, my soil mix must have healthy nutrients to sustain healthy plants.
The philodendron atom grows best when the soil is always moist, but it should never be boggy or overly saturated. If the water stays in the pot for too long, your philodendron will likely start to develop root rot or another bacterial or fungal infection.
Therefore, you should always use a well-draining soil mix to ensure that water does not remain inside the pot for an extended period. Try mixing in drainage materials such as coco coir, perlite, or fine gravel. You should also use pots with holes at the bottom to help with drainage.
Like all plants, the philodendron atom requires balanced conditions for proper growth. It needs well-draining soil that also retains a bit of water. If it lacks a good water retention capacity, the roots will not have enough time to soak up the necessary water for photosynthesis.
The Squeeze Test can help you determine the water retention level in your soil mix. To use this method, wet the soil, take a fistful of the dirt, and form a ball. Then open your palm.
The soil ball should hold together and only break apart when you tap it. If it remains compact, your soil mix will retain enough water. If the ball crumbles apart, it does not hold enough moisture to keep your philodendron alive.
Ideally, the soil on the top layer should be dry, while the layer below should be moist.
Philodendrons need air in the soil because their roots require oxygen to grow. The plant thrives in porous soil with good airflow, and an inadequate air supply will inhibit root development. For this reason, I use a naturally loose soil mix that allows sufficient air circulation.
You should use organic materials like manure, compost, peat moss, and a layer of mulch to keep the soil loose. You can also jab a chopstick into the soil around the plant (being careful not to damage the roots) to increase airflow.
The philodendron atom grows in alkaline soils with a pH level higher than 7. When the pH is lower, the nutrients and bacteria the plant needs will die off and damage the plant. I add garden lime to my soil mix to increase the pH when necessary.
Additionally, some harmful bacteria flourish when you don’t keep the pH where it needs to be. Such bacteria can cause the philodendron to rot.
Standard store-bought potting mix lacks some of the requirements for the philodendron atom to thrive. It is heavy, compact, and retains excess water, damaging the philodendron atom.
Therefore, search for substrates rich in nutrients with plenty of bulky ingredients to increase aeration. Options include compost, coconut coir, mixes modified with perlite and peat-based soils.
There are numerous commercial mixes for tropical plants that can support the growth of the philodendron atom. However, I prefer to make my own. I recommend using this recipe to mix up your philodendron-friendly soil:
- Coconut coir – 25%: This organic coconut material facilitates soil drainage while retaining sufficient moisture. It’s also fibrous and fluffy, helping to increase aeration. Its capacity to absorb water is ten times higher than its weight.
- Orchid bark – 25%: Orchid bark chips are shredded chunks of pine tree bark. Their rough texture improves soil aeration, enhances drainage, and prevents compaction.
- Perlite – 25%: Perlite adds aeration to the soil and improves drainage. It’s a porous volcanic rock with a fluffy popcorn-like texture, and it reduces condensation and eliminates the possibility of water saturation.
- Worm castings – 10%: You can add worm castings to the soil to increase the plants’ nutrients. It also maintains the ideal pH level for a philodendron atom to grow.
- Activated charcoal – 5%: This is a porous type of charcoal created by treating charcoal with chemicals, heat, or gas. I use it to absorb excess moisture, prevent mold, and repel insects.
Although the above potting mix has never failed me, some of the ingredients can be challenging to find. If you don’t have a large-scale philodendron garden, you might not need to keep so many different materials lying around.
So, here’s another easier-to-make recipe that I often recommend for beginner philodendron caretakers:
- Vermiculite – 40%: Using vermiculite helps aerate the soil mix and retain nutrients and water simultaneously. However, in my opinion, perlite is better than vermiculite because it has better drainage.
- Peat moss – 30%: I use peat moss to substitute coconut coir. It improves drainage and water retention, retains nutrients, and regulates the pH of the soil.
- Potting soil – 30%: Philodendron atoms receive all the necessary nutrients when I place them in any of the soil mixes above.
Be sure to pull on some gloves before mixing your potting mix. Doing so will protect your hands, and it will also reduce the chances of incorporating harmful bacteria or fungi into your potting mix.
The mixing process is simple.
- Put all the materials in a bin or bucket in the proper proportions.
- Stir them together using your hands or a gardening spoon.
- If the soil has any gaps, do not compress it. Compressing the soil mix creates the risk of oversaturating the plant with water.
Philodendrons have particular soil requirements and will struggle to grow if my soil mix does not meet these specifications.
Here are the critical signs I look out for to determine whether my soil mixture is correct.
Philodendrons flourish in loose, airy soil. When soil is highly compact, water and oxygen cannot penetrate easily and reach the roots, making it difficult for the philodendrons to grow. Ideally, if the soil density is proper, it should be fluffy and easy to press your finger into.
If the soil feels hard to the touch, the soil mix is too dense for philodendrons.
So, when potting your philodendron, don’t pack down the soil. Keep things light and fluffy so that your plant can spread its roots quickly.
Well-draining soil is critical for philodendrons since they are susceptible to water-related diseases such as root rot. To keep your plant healthy, you’ll need to enhance drainage using your plant’s container and soil ingredients.
So, be sure that you incorporate drainage-inducing ingredients into your potting mix and only use pots with drainage holes at the bottom.
A foul smell coming from beneath your philodendron means that it is time to replace the soil mix. The terrible smell usually occurs when harmful bacteria build up in the soil mix or the plant develops root rot. So, you’ll need to act quickly and change out the dirt before the infection spreads and kills your philodendron.
The leaves of philodendrons will curl and become yellow if the roots are saturated. The leaves also become limp and feel soft to the touch. From my experience, a deficiency of nitrogen, zinc, and manganese usually causes yellowing on older and inner leaves first. Then the discoloration progresses outward.
Also, using the wrong soil mix to plant philodendron prevents the plant from obtaining the nutrients it requires to thrive.
When philodendrons do not receive enough water, they turn brown and wilt. This change of color is a critical indicator of dehydration.
Philodendrons thrive in well-draining, loose soil. However, excess drainage is a problem since it still needs to have enough water to undergo photosynthesis. So, balance your moisture retention with drainage and use the proper soil for your philodendron. Water it sparingly, but keep the soil moist.
The philodendron atom can grow outdoors as long as the temperature is warm. Although the philodendron atom is a tropical plant, it does not do well in full sun. It needs bright indirect sunlight and warm temperatures year-round.
The plant is hardy and thrives in bathrooms, living rooms, bedrooms, and areas with shade.
For my outdoor philodendrons, I choose a spot that gets partial shade from direct sunlight in the year’s hottest months. Indoors, I place the philodendron in bright, indirect light but away from direct sun.
Philodendrons clean the air by eliminating formaldehyde and functioning as natural air fresheners. They absorb and neutralize harmful substances and break them down in their roots. The leaves also block away dangerous radio waves in the air.
They convert carbon monoxide into oxygen and improve the humidity by regulating the evaporation process.
You should water your philodendron atom once weekly during the growing season. However, hold off watering if the soil remains wet. The plant flourishes when you let the top layer dry in between waterings.
The philodendron atom needs less nutrition during winter and grows slower than in warmer months. Therefore, you do not have to water it often.
You can propagate a philodendron atom from cuttings or air layering. However, taking cuttings and rooting them in soil or water is usually the most straightforward way to increase your philodendron population.
To propagate your philodendron atom, cut six inches of a philodendron vine right beneath a node and put it in water until it develops roots. Change the water every three days. After the plant grows several roots, plant the cutting in a pot of moist soil.
The philodendron Atom needs well-draining soil with plenty of aeration and a balanced fertilizer to thrive. The soil should always be loose and fluffy to encourage root growth.
If your plant shows signs of overwatering or root rot, you might be able to blame compact or poorly draining potting soil. If that’s the case, follow the soil recipes above to protect and nourish your philodendron atom.